The Power of Love in A Worn Path, Literary Essay Sample

Published: 2022-03-11
The Power of Love in A Worn Path, Literary Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  American literature
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 839 words
7 min read

Eudora Welty's short fiction story "A Worn Path" highlights the plight of Phoenix Jackson (the protagonist), an elderly woman who is not only weak but lonely as well. For a better part of the story, Phoenix embarks on a journey to find drugs for her sick grandson. She comes across many hardships along the way but perseveres since her mission is to help the one she loves. Simple in tone and scope, the story is set upon a journey that incorporates a rich texture of symbolism.

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The conflict in the text is an internal one. It is a conflict between Phoenix and Mother Nature. The obstacles she encountered would influence many people to give up, but she is determined to get her task done. These challenges include a bush holding onto her dress, a scarecrow terrifying her and discouragement from a white hunter. Additionally, she had to cross waterways, climb hills, and crawl under barbed-wire hedge which is apparently a difficult task for a senior woman. However, her willpower was too strong for her to throw in the towel. The author uses a couple of literary devices in the story as explained below:

Allusion-Phoenix's name is similar to that of a mythical bird that rises into the air and ultimately burns into flames. When the bird is consumed by fire, a new phoenix springs out from the remains. Miss Jackson represents the Phoenix. She is way too old to walk the steep path for her grandson's medicines. Her age is a non-issue, the only thing that matter is that she must get the medicines lest her grandchild dies.

Metaphor-"She strolled... wavering side to side with balanced heaviness and lightness of a swing in a grandfather clock". These details make the character, and the story comes to life. Phoenix walks in the cold, and since she is old, she steps side to side as her footing is unsure.

Imagery-"The woods were silent and deep, and the sun made pine needles too bright to look at." The author inserts mental images to enable the reader to visualize the arduous journey of the woman. As such, the story pops off the text and into the reader's heart.

Simile-Phoenix had to crawl under a barbed-wire fence. "She was forced to creep, spreading her legs and stretching out her fingers like a baby learning to climb the steps." Comparing Phoenix to a child signifies how the old woman was ready to do anything to get to Natchez for the medicines. The visual image of her crawling under the fence may sound humorous, but in reality, it is difficult for an old lady.

Alliteration-"She smelled wood-smoke and the river and saw a tower and huts on steep steps." Repetition of the sound "s" shows a windy and smoky feeling as she dashes into the woods. The sight of the town gives Phoenix renewed energy to rush to the physician's office and then journey back to the grandchild.

Symbolism is also present in the text. Phoenix follows a "worn path" which signifies her unconditional love and commitment to the grandson. The path poses a grave danger to her life but she sacrifices and follows it anyway. Moreover, she faces the challenges of the harsh weather, condescending people, and discouragement from the white men. The title of the text suggests that this path is worn out from the old woman making the journey over and over again.

Phoenix's description in the text is striking. Her age and poverty state are highlighted through the description of her wrinkles." Her skin had a pattern of numberless branching wrinkles". Her cane acts an ineffectual weapon against the dangers she might encounter on her journey. The trials Phoenix faces symbolize the unfair travails of life. The thorns allude to the crown of thorns on Jesus. Nevertheless, Phoenix still possesses a great sense of humour and just as Christ, accepts the trials and tribulations. Closing her eyes while crossing the bridge signifies that she believes in a higher being who will protect her and guide her steps.

Phoenix's meditation on the boy bringing her a cake suggests how her life might have been if she lived a comfortable life. Although she is a dreamer, she is still determined, leaning towards her obstacles one at a time and never deviating from her goal. She feels free communicating with nature and is grateful to the God for whatever small blessings are accorded to her.


In the story, the reader can see that Phoenix is willing to go through hardships just to save the life of her grandchild whose life depends on the medicines. It took love, courage, and perseverance for the old lady to accomplish her mission. As such, the reality is no different from Miss Jackson's situation. The story stresses the importance of looking beyond fears and struggling to move forward in life. Many at times, people have goals that may seem difficult to accomplish, but if one is determined to get what they deem valuable, anything is possible.

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